Is TXU’s Free Nights & Solar Days Plan a Good Deal On Electricity?
Forgive the statement of the obvious, but the state of Texas is hot. Summertime temperatures routinely hit triple digits in Texas, and as a result people’s air conditioners work overtime during the summer months. As a result, people’s electricity bills often soar, which always has consumers on the lookout for cheap electricity. As a result of this, various forms of “Free” electricity plans have become very popular in the Texas electricity market. What do I mean by “Free” electricity plans? Plans that offer “Free Nights” or “Free Weekends” to consumers during designated hours of the day, or days of the week. Lots of retail electricity providers offer some form of these plans, but how good or practical are they really for Texans? Today we’ll take a look at the Free Nights & Solar Days plan from TXU Energy.
Understanding Electricity Plan Basics
First, let’s outline the basics of the plan. The Free Nights portion of the plan is comprised of the hours from 9 p.m to 6 a.m. So that is the window for electricity usage where a customer won’t have to pay any energy charges or delivery fees (in this instance from Oncor). So the goal here would be for customers to use as much energy as possible between 9-6. Dishwashers, cold air conditioning, loads of laundry, charging devices, anything extraneous should be performed in that time period in order to maximize the savings. Ok, got it? So, what are the other basics of the plan? Well, it has a $9.95 base monthly charge, and the kilowatt per hour rate (kWh) is 14.6 cents in the Dallas area (it will be more expensive elsewhere in Texas, Oncor is typically the cheapest distribution utility in the Lone Star State).
Lets take a look at the rate. You can toss out the boxes of kWh rates at 500, 1,000, and 2,000 right off the bat since those are averages. But focusing on the 14.6 cents rate will be important here. The problem with the rate of 14.6 cents is that it’s currently (as of the publishing of this article) more than double the cheapest electricity rate available in Oncor. Of course, that plan has different rates at usage tiers, but if you’re using between 1k and 2k kWh of power per month, then your electricity rate would be less than half what you’d pay on the TXU Free Nights & Solar Days plan if you were using the electricity between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Even for a “Flat Plan”(a plan with similar rates across all usage thresholds), the going rate is in the mid 9’s per kWh. That still makes the Free Nights and Solar Days plan 50% more expensive than a regular flat plan. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
What About The Green Electricity Factor?
Of course, that isn’t an entirely fair comparison because the Free Nights & Solar Days plan is ALSO a Green Energy plan. A green energy plan means that the energy comes from 100% environmentally friendly sources, such as solar energy or wind energy. Hence the plan’s name, Free Nights & Solar Days. Green energy plans are environmentally friend for people who are concerned with the environment and their carbon footprint, which is a great thing. However, Green Energy plans are also traditionally more expensive. So how does this TXU plan stack up against other green energy plans available in the Oncor service area? Well, the cheapest rate at any usage for a green plan is 7.8 cents per kWh, at a usage of 1,000 kWh per month. That makes the TXU plan still roughly 47% more expensive. The cheapest flat plan that is also 100% green energy checks in at 9.8 cents per kWh. The Free Nights & Solar Days plan is only 33% more expensive than this plan, so we are getting closer.
Another thing to consider is the reduction in delivery charges during that nighttime window. It’s difficult for me to quantify exactly what that electricity savings would represent for customers, because it is ENTIRELY dependent on exactly how much energy gets used during those hours, and that is one-hundred percent variable depending on the individual consumer in question. Would it be a 10% reduction? 20%? There is no way to tell or even guess, really, but we can say definitively that there would be an additional savings there on each bill.
Is This a Good Electricity Plan?
Still, excluding the distribution discount, a plan that’s 33% more expensive than the nearest comparable plan is going to be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people. The real individual question is going to be whether or not customers can make up that difference and more by utilizing the free electricity between the hours of 9 p.m and 6 a.m. In other words, it’s going to depend on a someone’s lifestyle. Are they a night owl? Can they reasonable stack their usage in those free hours enough to really make a difference in their usage and thus their monthly bill? If the answer is reasonably “Yes” then the Free Nights & Solar Days plan makes a case as a plan to consider. That being said, the biggest usage of electricity for a Texan, particularly in the summer, is their air conditioning unit. Anyone with pets will have to run that unit at a reasonable temperature all day, whether they are home or not, and even if someone doesn’t have pets, many people don’t turn their A/C off entirely during the day (or even up too high) because they do not want to come home to a sweltering house. Plus it takes energy to cool a hot home quickly once someone does arrive. The reason I point this out is because most people will have to run their A/C during the day, and that is decidedly during the period when Texans would be paying the 14.6 cent per kWh rate. That’s a big thing to consider when deciding whether or not this plan is good for each individual shopper.
In summation, the Free Nights & Solar Days plan from TXU Energy is, on it’s face, a much more expensive option than similar green energy plans on the market. There’s no way around that. The real question on whether or not this is a good plan for a shopper really comes down to each person’s individual lifestyle. Can they use enough of their energy during the free window to make up for the more expensive kWh rate which they are being charged? That is impossible for me to know because it will be a case by case basis for each individual to figure out. But hopefully our closer examination of this plan will help shoppers know which questions to ask themselves to help figure out if TXU’s Free Nights & Solar Days plan is a good fit for their personal lifestyle.